|Publication number||US7970639 B2|
|Application number||US 11/142,686|
|Publication date||Jun 28, 2011|
|Priority date||Aug 20, 2004|
|Also published as||US20060041447, US20110282705, WO2006023139A2, WO2006023139A3|
|Publication number||11142686, 142686, US 7970639 B2, US 7970639B2, US-B2-7970639, US7970639 B2, US7970639B2|
|Inventors||Mark A Vucina, Diana K Vucina|
|Original Assignee||Mark A Vucina, Diana K Vucina|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (40), Non-Patent Citations (21), Referenced by (4), Classifications (8), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This invention claims the benefit of priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/603,427, filed Aug. 20, 2004, entitled “Project Management Device and Method.”
The present invention relates to a project management systems and methods, and in particular, to systems and methods that may be used for project planning, task management, time management, and other similar applications.
People typically expend a tremendous amount of time and energy organizing and tracking various undertakings such as projects or tasks. The need to manage projects and track related tasks has resulted in a number of solutions. One conventional solution involves using a linear calendar. Simple schedules may be digitized and automated in the form of a personal digital assistant, which automatically issues reminders and may be synchronized through a computer system with schedules of other individuals.
Other techniques used in project and task management include either bottom-up or top-down approaches. In bottom-up planning, all of the tasks required for a project are listed. Then, all the individual tasks may be compiled, categorized, coordinated and prioritized until the scheduling is complete. In top-down planning, goals are divided into major tasks, which are in turn continuously broken down into smaller tasks until the tasks are manageable. In either case, project and task management systems are useful in planning and managing the execution of tasks associated with a project.
At the complex end of the spectrum there exists many project and task management computer software systems. Such programs automate and assist the management of resources for various tasks and continually update the status of a project. For enhanced visual comprehension by the users, such programs often display the projects as timelines. Well-known examples include PERT charts and Gantt charts. Such display methods permit a project to be visualized.
A problem with such conventional solutions is that they show tasks spread out in a linear fashion. Presenting the tasks can take up many separate pages and can require a large physical area to visualize the whole project. For example, PERT and Gantt charts are linear, and if a project is long or complex, the project will span many pages, whether on a computer screen or on a printout. Accordingly, the conventional solutions are difficult or impossible for a user to comprehend the current status of a project at a glance, especially a long or complex project.
Furthermore, the conventional solutions typically have a “left to right” focus where the end date can be continuously extended as the project hits delays. However, many projects do not have the flexibility of allowing for changes in the end date. Contractors or product developers, for example, can lose money if they do not finish on time. Often, events such as weddings, conferences, and many other projects cannot be rescheduled without great difficulty, cost, or sacrifice.
Thus, there is a need for improved systems and methods for managing projects and tasks. The techniques should be simple, conceptually intuitive, efficient, and cost effective. The present invention addresses such a need with innovative systems and methods that may be used to manage projects and tasks.
Embodiments of the present invention provide improved project management systems and methods. In one embodiment the present invention includes a project management system comprising a plurality of radial task regions displayed around a focal point and a plurality of time regions displayed around the focal point, wherein each time region represents a period of time.
In one embodiment, the present invention further comprises a central region including the focal point. The focal point or a boundary of the central region may represent a point in time, such as a target project completion date, for example.
In another embodiment, the present invention further comprises one or more task identifiers, wherein at least one task region includes one or more task identifiers. Task regions or task identifiers may be associated with one or more tasks, projects, jobs, events, or goals. Task regions or task identifiers may be associated with information about one or more tasks. In one embodiment, task regions or task identifiers may be associated with at least one task description record. In one embodiment, each task description record comprises one or more task description fields.
Embodiments of the present invention are useful in managing projects that progress over a variety of different time periods. In one embodiment, time is represented as advancing inward toward the focal point. In another embodiment, time is represented as advancing outward away from the focal point. In some applications, the time period may be user definable. Each time region may represent an hour, a day, a week, a month, or any other time period deemed useful by a user.
In one embodiment, the project management system is implemented in software. In another embodiment, the project management system is implemented as a project management template printed on a sheet of material.
Embodiments of the present invention also include a project management system comprising a plurality of radial task boundaries, wherein a plurality of task regions are defined between adjacent task boundaries.
In one embodiment, the present invention includes a project management system comprising a plurality of task identifiers arranged radially around a focal point, wherein the focal point represents a point in time and each task identifier represents the progression of a task relative to the point in time.
In another embodiment, the present invention includes a project management template comprising a sheet of material displaying a chart having a plurality of radial task boundaries, wherein a task region defined between adjacent task boundaries corresponds to one or more tasks.
In yet another embodiment, the present invention includes a project management template comprising a sheet of material having a surface, an image on the surface, wherein the image comprises a chart having a plurality of concentric time regions, wherein each time region represents a time period.
In yet another embodiment, the present invention includes a project management method comprising displaying a plurality of radial task boundaries, wherein a plurality of task regions defined between adjacent task boundaries corresponds to one or more tasks.
In yet another embodiment, the present invention includes a project management method comprising displaying a plurality of task identifiers radially around a focal point, wherein the focal point represents a point in time and each task identifier represents the progression of a task relative to the point in time.
The following detailed description and accompanying drawings provide a better understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention.
Described herein are techniques for managing projects, tasks, jobs, events, goals, super-projects, sub-projects, and subtasks, for example. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous examples and specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be evident, however, to one skilled in the art that the present invention as defined by the claims may include some or all of the features in these examples alone or in combination with other features described below, and may further include obvious modifications and equivalents of the features and concepts described herein.
In one embodiment, the present invention includes a project management system, which may include, for example, a physical or electronic chart that divides a project into tasks. In one embodiment, the project is organized into task regions arranged radially around a focal point. The focal point is a point of convergence where the task regions would converge if extrapolated inward. In one embodiment, task regions are defined between radial task boundaries. The task regions may correspond to one or more tasks, and may be associated with information (i.e., data) about the tasks (herein, task information). Each of the tasks may be performed using independent resources. The task regions may be visually depicted as slices of the whole geometric shape. The focal point where all of the slices converge may represent a point in time, such as a project target completion date, target end date for a task or subtask, or the end date of a time region as described in more detail below. Alternatively, the point in time represented by the focal point may be represented by a boundary of a central region, such as a circle, that includes (e.g., is centered on) the focal point. This draws attention to the point in time represented by the focal point or central region boundary (e.g., a target completion date for a project) and shows this in an intuitive graph style.
Embodiments of the present invention may include project management systems implemented in software and displayed on a monitor or physical project management templates or charts that can be hung on a wall, for example. In one embodiment described in more detail below, the project management template may also include a description region into which task information can be entered. As a result, the project management template allows a user to view the whole project (i.e. macro view) and the details (i.e. micro view) of the tasks that constitute the project simultaneously in a simple, intuitive, visually meaningful, and compact, one-page presentation. In another embodiment, the project management system is implemented in software and the task information is stored and associated with tasks automatically in software. Project management systems and methods according to embodiments of the present invention may be stored as program instructions on a computer readable medium. The program instructions may be executed by a computer system and cause the computer system to execute the project management methods and techniques described herein.
Project management system 100A may be used for scheduling, planning, and/or managing aspects of jobs, goals, projects, tasks, or other types of events. For example, the focal point may correspond to a target completion date for a job, goal, project, super-project, task, or subtask. Moreover, while the above description refers to each task region 106 a-d as corresponding to a task, each region may correspond to one project in a plurality of projects relating to the completion of some larger project (e.g. super-project), goal, or job. Alternatively, each task region may correspond to a particular subtask in a plurality of subtasks relating to the completion of a task. The term task region as used herein is intended to mean the use of such regions to represent projects, super-projects, tasks, jobs, subtasks or other activities that relate to the completion of any desired goal. Embodiments of project management system 100A may also be referred to as a calendar, scheduler, planner, or time management system, for example.
Project management systems according to embodiments of the present invention can be implemented using software where a user enters task information such as time increment data, target dates, resource information, and other information about each task. Examples of task information include any of a variety of task details such as information about vendors, due dates, short term objectives, daily logs, subcontractors, weather, incidents, accidents, issues, and problems. Other examples are provided below. The system may display task boundaries and task regions for viewing by a user, or can alternatively print out the information to allow a user or multiple project members to view a hard copy. As a given project progresses, the data can be readily updated, re-displayed and printed out.
Alternatively, in another embodiment of the present invention, the project management system 100A can be provided as a blank project management template onto which a user manually writes task information. Examples of such a blank project management template are described in greater detail below.
Project management system 100B also includes a plurality of task identifiers, such as task identifiers 110-113. Task identifiers 110-113 are markings that represent the temporal progression of a task (i.e., a representation of the beginning, duration, and end of a task). Task identifiers may be associated with task information. For example, each identifier may include numbers positioned proximate to each task identifier that are associated with similarly number tasks in a description region, or the association may be implemented in software. The task identifiers may be displayed within the outer boundary and arranged radially around a focal point. Each task identifier corresponds to one or more tasks and represents the progression of such task(s) over time. For example, as mentioned above, the focal point represents a point in time, and time boundaries 150-153 represent points in time relative to the focal point. If time increases inward toward the focal point, the points in time represented by time boundaries 150-153 represent earlier points in time. Task identifier 110 starts at the point in time represented by outer time boundary 150 and ends at some later point in time. Thus, the task corresponding to task identifier 110 (e.g., laying cement for a foundation or conducting market research for a new product) is the first scheduled task and begins at the time corresponding to time boundary 150. Similarly, a second task corresponding to task identifier 111 starts sometime after the point in time represented by outer boundary 150 and ends at a point in time represented by time boundary 151. Task identifier 112 starts at time boundary 151 and ends prior to time boundary 152. Task identifier 113 ends at time boundary 152. Task identifier 114 starts at time boundary 152 and ends at time boundary 153. Thus, each task identifier represents the progression of a task relative to the point in time represented by the focal point. Task identifiers may be represented in a variety of ways, such as lines, bars, or as sequences of fanciful icons. For the remainder of this description, the term “task bar” shall be used for task identifiers. However, it is to be understood that a variety of other task identifiers could be used in the examples below. Moreover, it is to be understood that additional time boundaries may be used to improve resolution of the time scale.
The task regions 402 a-p overlap the time regions 406 a-g such that each time region 406 a-g includes portions of different task regions 402 a-p. Also, the task regions 402 a-p overlap the time regions 406 a-g such that each task region 402 a-p includes portions of the different time regions 406 a-g. Overlapping task regions and time regions allow users to compare and analyze the temporal relationship between multiple tasks for a project simultaneously.
In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, each task region 402 a-p may be associated with one or more tasks of a plurality of tasks that constitute a project. As described above, the central region 410 may represent a target completion date for the project represented by the plurality of task regions, and the time regions 406 a-g advance inward toward the focal point 404 or central region 410. Thus, in this example each task region progresses inward toward the target completion date. Embodiments of the present invention may allow a user of the project management system to associate one or more task regions 402 a-p with a particular resource.
In this example, task regions may include one or more task identifiers 450-451. Task identifiers (here, task bars) represent the progression of a task relative to the point in time represented by the focal point or central region boundary. For example, the progression of task “4” in task region 402 d is represented by task identifier 450, which begins at the beginning of October (end of September) and ends about half-way through October. Similarly, the progression of task “10” in task region 402 j is represented by task identifiers 451 a, 451 b, and 451 c. Multiple task identifiers may indicate that different stages of a task are completed at different times or that different sub-tasks associated with task region “10” (or associated with task identifier 451 a-c) are completed at different times. Task “10” may have a first stage that begins in the middle of October, for example, and ends in the middle of November. A second stage may begin in early December and end in late December. Finally, the last stage may begin in early February and end at the beginning of March, which is the target completion date for the whole project. Other embodiments of task identifiers are described in more detail below.
As shown in
Embodiments of the present invention allow a user to view a plurality of tasks associated with task regions and obtain an indication of critical elements for the project on a single, easily comprehensible page. This results in a display that is both easy to understand and simple to update. One implementation is shown in
As shown in
The specific number of task regions 402 a-p will depend on the specific application. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize that there could be any number of task regions 402 a-p depending on the number of tasks that may be associated with a particular project. For example,
Since the time region 810 between two adjacent concentric circles represents one month in the example of
The width of each time region can depict any amount of time. Typically, a time region would signify an hour, day, week, or month. Time regions can also signify one or more years, one or more quarters, typical work weeks (5 days), random work weeks (any days of choice), weekends, one day per week, one week per month, hours, half of a day, 12 hours of a day, 8 hours per day, 4 hours per day, a certain number of minutes, etc. Time regions can also be used to depict periods that are not based on these standard times. For example, a delay that affects all tasks (e.g., a weather delay) may be represented as a time region. Such a “weather delay time region” might be applied to the whole chart and may have a time of 10 days rather than a standard week. The time regions are typically sized equally in the chart to signify equal time periods across the project. Alternatively, varying time periods may be depicted visually by adjusting the width of different time regions automatically by computer or manually.
In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, multiple project management charts may be used to move between different projects in a project hierarchy or alternatively between different tasks in a task hierarchy. As such, multiple sub-charts may be used with a master chart to show more detail of any aspect of the project than is possible or desirable on the master chart. For example, each sub-chart may show scheduled tasks for a particular resource. A sub-chart may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular resource for future reference. Alternatively, a master chart may include 12 time regions that are each one-month long, and multiple sub-charts may include 4 time regions that are each one-week long. Also, a sub-chart may be used to create a daily work record and an archive for the project.
As mentioned above, embodiments of the present invention may be implemented in software on a computer and displayed to a user on a monitor or other type of display. From
In a specific embodiment, each segment 1304 and 1310 is color-coded to more clearly indicate the status of the respective task. For example, the segment 1304 may be black indicating a projected time period that begins at the projected start time 1306 and ends at the projected end time 1308. Similarly, the segment 1310 may be red indicating an extension time period that ends at the extended end time 1312. Of course, the specific colors will depend on the specific application. Alternatively, different shades (e.g. black, gray, etc.) or different patterns (e.g. solid, cross-hatch, dotted, etc.) can be used in lieu of colors to indicate the different segments 1304 and 1310.
One example implementation of project management template 1700 is to print the chart 1701 and description region 1702 on a sheet of material. Project management template 1700 may be provided as a blank template onto which a user can manually enter information. For example, project management template 1700 may be printed on a sheet of paper. The surface of the paper may include an image of the chart 1701 and description region 1702 including a plurality of description records and description fields, for example. In one embodiment, project management template 1700 is printed on a sheet of material (e.g., paper), and a laminate layer (e.g., plastic or polymer) is placed on top of the sheet of material. Accordingly, a user may use erasable markers to write task bars and task information onto the chart. The information on the chart may be easily modified or deleted simply by erasing the markings. A variety of materials could be used for the sheet of material or the laminate. In one embodiment, the project management template is provided directly on a plastic sheet or other polymer. While this example may be implemented physically (e.g., as a printed product), embodiments of the present invention may also be implemented in software, wherein the chart 1700 is displayed to a user on a display and associated task information is stored in tables of a database (e.g., each description region may be a database record or object and each description field may be fields of a database table or database object).
There may be cases where a very large number of resources or task families are involved, requiring an unwieldy number of separate task regions to be cut from the project management system. There may also be cases where it is desired to view only a portion of a project at one time. For example, one may not wish to give all of the project details to a particular individual. These cases are accommodated by “partial slice” diagrams in which only one or a select few task regions are shown.
In another embodiment of the present invention, the project management system 2400 has paper “tear off” sheets that attach to areas of the project management system 2400 (e.g. at the bottom). The “tear off” sheets may be implemented as a specific size/shape notepad. For example, one half of the bottom may be a list of daily actions that gets “ripped off” at the end of the day.
At step 2604, a name for the project may be entered onto the project management template such as in a “project” field. At step 2606, a target date is entered in the central region. At step 2608, time periods are entered into the time regions. First, the duration of the project is determined. As described above, the time regions may represent different spans of time such as a month, week, day, or any other time period the user finds useful. For example, the time periods entered may be the months of the year such as “January”, “February”, etc. At step 2610, the tasks that constitute the project are entered into the description regions. Critical tasks may also be identified. At step 2612, task information is entered into the description regions. As described above, such task information may include resource names, contact names and phone numbers, for example. At step 2614, task bars are entered into the task regions. As described above, extension time periods, loop extension time periods, delayed time periods, weather delays, etc. may be added.
According to the system and method disclosed herein, the present invention provides numerous benefits. For example, a user can view the overall project and the details of the tasks that constitute the project simultaneously in a simple, intuitive, visually meaningful, and compact one-page presentation. Furthermore, embodiments of the present invention maintain as much scheduling freedom as possible when managing projects. Embodiments of the present invention also enable a user to schedule, view and manage as many concurrent tasks as possible in order to shorten the length of a project. Furthermore, the project target date being positioned at the focal point of the chart functions as a psychological barrier to extending deadlines.
The above description illustrates various embodiments of the present invention along with examples of how aspects of the present invention may be implemented. The above examples and embodiments should not be deemed to be the only embodiments, and are presented to illustrate the flexibility and advantages of the present invention as defined by the following claims. For example, embodiments of the present invention may include some or all of the innovative features described above. Also, the present invention can be implemented using physical material, software, a computer readable medium containing program instructions, or a combination thereof. Software written according to the present invention may be stored either in some form of computer-readable medium such as memory or CD-ROM, or may be transmitted over a network such as the internet. Such software may be executed by any of a variety of electronic devices such as a computer system. Based on the above disclosure and the following claims, other arrangements, embodiments, implementations and equivalents will be evident to those skilled in the art and may be employed without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims.
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|Cooperative Classification||G06Q10/1097, G06Q10/06, G06Q10/06311|
|European Classification||G06Q10/06, G06Q10/1097, G06Q10/06311|
|Jan 12, 2015||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|
|Jan 12, 2015||FPAY||Fee payment|
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